Tamiru Fisseha would have been working on any labor activity, probably as a driver, at one of the Middle Eastern countries, United Arab Emirates, if it weren’t for his grandmother, who was outraged when he brought up the notion of moving overseas a few years ago.
Because he didn’t see a bright future in his current position as a driver for the National Metrology Institute of Ethiopia, he made that decision. The Civil Service Commission plans the pay and job grades for the 185 federal government institutions, including 22 ministries and universities. One of these organizations is where Tamiru is working now.
Even with a monthly wage of less than 3,000 birr (58 USD) before taxes, he lacked the guts to move out of his grandmother’s house and live independently. It is unthinkable to get married and have a family like some of his childhood friends at the same age, 30.
“Just think of what you could buy in Addis Abeba with that money. I have a significant benefit of not having a housing expense,” he stated. One of his colleagues, having no family in the city to stay with, pays 2,000 birr to rent a modest room outside the city, where he must travel for hours to get to work.
He receives a rare per diem payment of 350–400 Birr per day if he manages to leave Addis Abeba, as well as an additional 600 Birr per month when the automobile stays with him over the night because he might work more hours. He earns an average of 4,500 birr (86 USD) per month overall, but if there is no per diem, the office will only pay him 3,500 birr per month (67 USD).
“I’ve heard that the 600 birr allowance has now been doubled,” he remarked.
Tamiru was referring to the new overtime work payment directive that the Civil Service Commission’s Commissioner Mekuria Haile (PhD) signed last week.
The directive specifies how the overtime work allowance payment should be made to civil servants at all 185 federally funded institutions, and it will take effect on August 7 of this year.
The directive states that employees who work overtime will get a payment equal to at least 125 percent and up to 250 percent of their income, computed based on daily earnings. The estimated daily income for a secretary with a grade-six salary scale and a monthly salary of 2,900 birr is close to 100 birr.
But the maximum hours a civil servant should work on extra per month grew from 60 hours to 120 hours. The directive doubled the fixed monthly allowances for drivers to 1,300 and 1,500 birr a month from 600 and 800 birr.
The adjustments are thought to help the civil servants with the rising expense of living, combined with providing rare food supplies at their particular offices to purchase at relatively lower prices. However, officials at the Commission claim that this never serves as compensation for the delayed salary increase for public servants.
Yigezu Jemaneh, a director at the Commission who is in charge of overseeing work evaluation and payment researches, makes the same claim. The new regulation about allowance payment is made because of the nature of the jobs, not as restitution for the people’s low salaries and rising cost of living, according to him.
There hasn’t been any discussion of raising public servantssalaries once more to assist them stay up with the skyrocketing inflation rates since their salaries were adjusted in 2019. Last year, food commodities saw price increases of over 100 percent, and headline inflation of over 35% year over year.
“The salary of civil servants has not changed in any way, and there isn’t even a plan in place to raise it,” Yigezu said.
Working with federal offices on restructure based on the proclamation approved last October after the formation of the new administration is his office’s current primary responsibility.
“We have seen the country’s budget last time and how the government is experiencing financial strain. There won’t be any change coming now,” Yigezu added.
For the just commenced budget year, the government approved the highest budget of 786.6 billion birr. The military budget and debt repayment accounted the majority of it, even if the recurrent budget receives the lion’s share (347 billion birr).
Tamiru had only experienced a wage rise in 2019, which doubled his starting income of 1,500 birr a few months after he started working at the Institute, during his four years of employment there. The highest grade on the pay system for drivers is grade seven, which pays around 300 more birr than grade six did for Tamiru.
He once started the procedure to get a loan from a microfinance and acquire the 20-year-old Toyota Vitz car for ride-hailing service as part of his goal to increase his income. Just as his grandmother offered to help with the down payment and he was about to complete the procedure, the cost of cars shot up sharply. Since then, he has quickly abandoned his plan.
He is unsure about what to do with his life because he is unable to work for himself in his field of expertise and unfortunate enough that his institution never pays enough.
“I’m considering applying for a job at a state-owned enterprise or in the private sector in search of a higher pay,” he added. He believes the best course of action is to leave the government organization that operates on a tight budget and work for one that is profitable.
The Confederation of Ethiopia Trade Unions (CETU) doesn’t have civil servants under its wing. But, it has been doing its part in solving the salary issues workers at the private sectors have, according to the Confederation’s president Kassahun Follo.
He believes that this is a challenging period for any salary-based career, whether one works in the public or private sector. His Confederation has been receiving appeals from unions that are part of it to intervene in their bids for pay increases.
One of the actions Kassahun’s office urged the government to take as a solution for the workers was the ratification of a national minimum wage rule, but nothing has happened so far.
“Despite our comments on the regulation since the end of last year, there has been no news from the Council of Ministers towards its ratification. Since then, we have been making requests to the authorities,” Kassahun told The Reporter.
In spite of all, over a million of regional government employees and federal civil servants like Tamiru are left hanging in the midst of the economic fallout haunting the nation.